The Perfect Cafe Racer: 1966 Norton Atlas for Sale

1966 Norton Atlas Cafe R Side Front

At first glance, the tank shape suggests that this is a classic Norton Commando, but the upright engine reveals the truth: this is a very well put-together Norton Atlas café racer. When building the perfect café bike, many builders prefer the more sleekly-canted engine from the later Commando that supposedly improved center of gravity, but likely just looked cool and created additional space for carburetors. Redesigning the engine for the Commando was easy for the same reason it’s very easy to mix-and-match parts from these bikes: the pre-unit gearbox.

1966 Norton Atlas Cafe L Side

While an obviously outdated design, even when new, Norton made it work well, and their parallel-twins were the bikes to beat on both road and track: the “Featherbed” frame gave famously sharp handling and the engines could tuned to be very powerful, yet the package remained relatively lightweight.

1966 Norton Atlas Cafe Dash

The seller’s description mentions significant engine work that stresses balancing and lightening, a great idea, since the 750 twin did have some issues with vibration. The original Dominator was powered by a 500cc version of the engine, but successive increases in displacement exacerbated the vibration inherent in a parallel-twin design. The 650cc Atlas was the last of the line before the famous “Isolastic” system was designed for the Commando, intended to keep that bike from literally shaking itself to pieces.

1966 Norton Atlas Cafe L Side Detail

From the original eBay listing: 1966 Norton Atlas 750cc Café Racer

I am the second owner. I have owned and ridden this classic for 7 years, I ride it mostly on weekend rides ( about 1200 miles since purchased) and it always brings a smile to my face. It has always been stored indoors, only seen dry weather and has never to my knowledge been dropped.

No expense was spared in creating a beautiful café racer typical of the late 60’s/early 70’s; the detailing is superb. This bike uses real original café parts, not reproductions.

Slimline featherbed frame; alloy Real “Lyta” short circuit tank; polished alloy oil tank; frame, swing arm, primary cover, etc. powder coated; alloy parts are all polished; Commando forks; hard chromed stanchions; triple clamps machined from aircraft Dural (aluminum); Akront stainless, flanged wheels; stainless spokes; lightened hubs; rare, magnesium racing Lockheed front brake and master cyl. with drilled front disk; all fasteners are stainless steel; stainless fenders.

Engine dynamically balanced and head flowed; lightened and polished valve gear; genuine Dunstall camshaft; 850 oil pump with modified flow to head and spin-on filter modification; Superblend bearings; magneto ignition; new Amal 930 Concentric carbs (installed by Brian Slark); g’box also with Superblend bearings and all new gears and bushes; chain-driven Barnett clutch. Many more features.

As with all pre-Commando, primary chain Nortons, weeps some oil out of the primary case, but is otherwise oil tight. Starts first kick (usually), handles and stops as you would expect from a featherbed frame/disk brake classic. Acceleration from 4,500 rpm is exhilarating. This is a bike you can ride and enjoy!!!

The engine work should go a long way towards making this bike smooth on the road. I’d imagine this still isn’t great for touring, but I doubt anyone looking at these plans to use it for that, or would care much if they did.

1966 Norton Atlas Cafe Oil Tank

That oil tank is an especially beautiful piece, the color choice is classic and simple, and the single mirror is a very nice, authentic café-racer touch although, for US roads, I think I’d move it to the left-hand bar…

My fantasy garage definitely includes a 60’s British parallel-twin, and this is exactly the type of bike I’d want. Bidding is active and up to $9,000 with less than one day to go on the auction, so jump in quickly!

-tad

1966 Norton Atlas Cafe R Side

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1 Response

  1. Jess says:

    Simply beautiful and the details are so right. The sound is great! This is my idea of what a cafe racer should be. Build a bike that handles, brakes, and performs better that stock while paying homage to the era the bike was built in, IMO the RD-350 Yamaha earlier this week is another fine example.